This sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil is a gently-spiced, perfumed Southeast Asian-style soup made for the summer corn season. This quarantine cooking dish was partly inspired by Chinese egg drop soup and partly by the Southeast Asian ingredients of ginger, garlic, turmeric, and galangal that we love so much.
If you’re still staying at home and quarantine cooking – that is, using ingredients that make several dishes or stretching out components of dishes over multiple meals to extend the time between stressful shopping trips – then please add this sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil to your recipe list.
We’re into our third month of quarantine cooking and we’ve got it down to an art. We’re working our way through a list of cooking projects, including baking sourdough and sourdough starter discard recipes, having fun with Cambodian-Australian flavoured meat pies and sausage rolls, testing traditional Cambodian soups and stews and barbecue recipes, and researching, writing and testing recipes for our Cambodian culinary history and cookbook project.
This sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil started out life as grilled corn on the cob with lime butter and lemongrass mayonnaise, which I made, before transforming the leftovers into a grilled corn salad with lime, chilli, lemongrass mayo and sourdough croutons. Terence used what was left to create this creamy sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil.
Sweet Corn Soup Recipe With Ginger, Turmeric and Chilli Oil
Aside from our grilled corn leftovers, one of Terence’s inspirations for this sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil were the contents of our fridge – fresh ginger, galangal and turmeric we had sitting in the vegetable crisper – as well as the last of the chilli oil Terence made a few months ago that he wanted to use so he could make another batch.
Another inspiration were the Chinese corn soups we ate at Chinese restaurants in Australia in the 1970s, which typically featured sweet corn soups. As Australians, living in a country with a long, rich multicultural history, especially an Asian history, we’ve been eating Asian food for most of our lives.
While my family only started cooking with Asian ingredients in the 1970s, and Terence and I began making Asian food – main Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, and Malay – after we moved in together in the mid-1980s, Australians have been growing and cooking Asian ingredients for over 200 years.
Ginger, for instance, which we’ve used in this sweet corn soup recipe, arrived on the First Fleet in 1778. Colonial Australians were also using chillies, fresh, dried, in vinegar, and as a condiment. Six chilli varieties were grown in Sydney in the 1820s. As a newspaper ad in 1825 attests, Sydney’s warehouses and shops stocked “fish sauce, mustard, currie powder, cayenne pepper – spices of all kinds, and ginger…”
Chinese migrants arrived in Australia in the 1800s to work as labourers, farmers and miners, with most coming for the Gold Rush, which boomed in 1851. Many ended up starting market gardens and working as cooks, kitchen hands and hawkers who sold door-to-door. It was therefore no surprise that Australia’s first Asian restaurant was a Chinese restaurant called John Alloo’s, opened by Chim Thum Lok in 1853 in the gold mining town of Ballarat, which served both Chinese and European food.
By 1890, a third of all working cooks in Australia were Chinese, running modest ‘cook-shops’, where they’d serve humble meals. Most came from Guangdong, which explains how Cantonese food, including sweet corn soup recipes, came to dominate Chinese cooking in Australia.
During the early 20th century, Chinese restaurants were popping up in almost every Australian suburb and rural town. By 1928, a story in the Melbourne Argus newspaper attests that ‘dim sims’ – a Chinese pork mince dumpling with water chestnuts – were a popular fast food. And by the 1940s, Chinese restaurants in Sydney’s Chinatown were flourishing, with diners including a mix of Australians, not only of Chinese heritage.
By the time we were growing up in the 1970s, it was very normal for Australians to go out for dinner at their local Chinese restaurant and to cook Chinese meals at home. The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine regularly featured Chinese favourites, everything from fried rice to sweet corn soup recipes.
In Sydney, my family went out for Chinese most Friday nights and that the spread of food Dad and Mum ordered always including a sweet corn and crab soup – and the meal always ended with bowls of fried ice cream. Terence prefers the Chinese egg drop soup to the corn and crab.
The Chinese egg drop soup is a simple comforting corn and chicken soup with spring onions and egg, and occasionally fresh ginger, particularly if it’s being made at home for someone who is sick. While that soup was one of Terence’s inspirations for this sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil, he ended up leaving out the egg as the soup is packed with plenty of flavour and texture.
No other notes are needed for this sweet corn recipe as it’s very straightforward but do let us know if you have any questions in the comments below. Click through for Terence’s chilli oil recipe.
Sweet Corn Soup Recipe With Ginger, Turmeric and Chilli Oil
- 60 g brown onion sliced finely
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- 10 g fresh ginger cut into matchsticks
- 10 g galangal finely chopped
- 10 g turmeric finely chopped
- 2 bird’s eye chillis seeds removed, finely chopped
- 400 g BBQ grilled corn kernels
- 1 l chicken stock
- 2 green onions scallions, green and white pieces separated and chopped finely
- 1 tbsp chilli oil optional
- 1 tbsp deep-fried shallots optional
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan. Add the brown onion, ginger, galangal, turmeric and corn and stir until the onion is translucent. Add the chillis and the garlic and combine.
- Add the chicken stock, simmer for 20 mins and test for seasoning.
- Serve and garnish.
Do let us know if you make our sweet corn soup recipe with ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chilli oil as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.